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Letters of Amerigo Vespucci. 

Amerigo Vespucci appears in the Spanish records as 
a member of the mercantile house of Berardi, at Se- 
ville, until February, 1496. His name then wholly dis- 
appears until February, 1505, when he appears on his 
way to the Spanish Court, bearing a letter of introduc- 
tion from Columbus to his son Diego. From the letter 
it appears that Vespucci had been unfortunate in his 
affairs. He was soon taken into favor by Fonseca, the 
enemy of Columbus, and rose rapidly. He received 
letters of naturalization, was appointed with Pinzon to 
command in a fleet that was to sail for the Spice Islands, 
but which was abandoned. He was, in 1508, appointed 
principal pilot, or superintendent of charts, and so re- 
mained till his death in 1512. 

In the interval between his disappearance from the 
records as a merchant in February, 1496, and his re-ap- 
pearance on his way to court in February, 1505, he 
made his voyages. In the examination of witnesses in 
1512-13, in the great suit of the heirs of Columbus 
against the crown (which suit was begun in 1508), Ojj'da, 
testifying about his voyage made in 1499, said that he 



was accompanied by " Juan de la Cosa, piloto, e Morigo 
Vespuche, e otros pilotos." There is no other record 
evidence of his having made a Spanish voyage. This 
statement of Oj/da shows that Vespucci did not sail as 
a pilot, but does not show in what capacity he did go. 
Of this statement, Navarrete says, Tom. Ill, p. 718 : "Esta 
es la timca noticia de que America hubiese navegado halldn- 
dose en Espafia, y aun se ignora en que clase 6 con que des- 
tino fae embarcado en esta primer a expedition de Hojeda" 

The exhaustive investigation of Viscount Santarem 
shows that Vespucci is not named or in any way referred 
to in any of the records or archives in Portugal, though 
the navigation records of the reign of King Manuel 
were made complete under his personal supervision, and 
they appear, at the present day, complete and without 
break. The diplomatic records of that day are full of 
reports made to the Pope, to various sovereigns, and to 
the Portuguese embassadors at the various courts, of 
the voyages and discoveries made by Portuguese fleets, 
and in them is no mention made of Vespucci or any 
reference to him. The Portuguese historians and an- 
nalists of that time preserve the same silence. 

There is, however, Spanish authority for the fact that 
Vespucci sailed to South America in a Portuguese fleet. 
Peter Martyr, who was acquainted with him, and was 
intimate with his surviving nephew, says that Vespucci 
sailed to South America at the expense of the King of 
Portugal. From the declarations made at the council 
of Spanish pilots held in 1515 (Navarrete, Tom. Ill, p. 
319), to determine the line of boundary between the 

American possessions of Spain and Portugal, it seems 
certain that Vespucci visited Cape St. Augustine on the 
coast of Brazil, and from the statement of ISTuno Garcia 
it seems that all understood that he sailed in a Portu- 
guese fleet. Gomara, writing indeed forty years later, 
says that Vespucci coasted along America to fifty de- 
grees south latitude, under the command of the King of 

Beyond the naked fact that Vespucci sailed with 
Ojeda in his voyage of 1499, and also visited the coast 
of Brazil at least once in a Portuguese vessel, the records 
give no information concerning his voyages. For fur- 
ther information, we must have recourse to his letters. 
Of the letters discovered or said to be discovered, in 
manuscript in comparatively recent times, I have nothing 
to say. The two letters published in various languages 
and numerous editions during the life-time of Vespucci, 
one giving an account of his third voyage, published 
several times in France and Germany before the death of 
Columbus, the other describing his four voyages, deserve, 
as they have often received, attentive consideration. 

The Bibliotheca Americana Vestustissima of Harrisse, 
and the admirable disquisition of M. d'Avezac leave 
little to be desired concerning the bibliography of these 
letters. The letter to Laurentio Petri Francisci de 
Medicis was first printed by Jean Lambert in Paris. At 
least there is a common consent that this edition, with- 
out date, preceded the edition of Ottmar, printed in 
1504, and was the first. In a very few years eleven 
other Latin and six German editions appeared in France 

and Germany. In 1507 it appeared in Italian, in the 
collection entitled Paesi Novamente Hitrovati, printed 
in Vicenza. Within a very few years numerous editions 
and translations of this work, in Italian, Latin, French, 
and German, appeared in Italy, France, and Germany. 

In different editions, the letter is variously said to 
have been originally written in Italian, Spanish, and 
Portuguese. But whatever may have been the original 
tongue, all the printed copies, even the Italian, are de- 
rived from the Latin. For the name of Amerigo Ves- 
pucci, even in the Italian copies, appears as Alberigo, a 
retranslation of the Latinized form, Albericus. Hence, 
not one was printed from the original letter or from a 
direct copy of it. 

And while these multitudinous and quickly recurring 
editions flooded France, Germany, and various states in 
Northern Italy, no one edition appeared in Portugal, 
Spain, or Florence. Hence the letter, while printed 
every-where else, was not printed in the state where the 
writer was domiciled, or in the state where his corre- 
spondent lived. 

The letter states that Vespucci sailed at the expense 
and by the command of the King of Portugal on the 
king's fleet. Viscount Santarem, keeper of the Portu- 
guese archives, after an exhaustive personal examination, 
says that the marine records of King Manuel, made 
elaborately complete by the personal supervision of the 
king, remain to this day complete,'the series absolutely 
unbroken, and they contain no mention of, or reference 
to, any such expedition, or fleet, or command. 


The letter proceeds with stating that while the igno- 
rant pilots of the fleet were roaming about, not know- 
ing within five hundred leagues where they were, all 
would have been lost hut for Vespucci's knowledge of 
cosmography. " Hence, the mariners held me in much 
honor, for I showed that without knowledge of the 
chart, I knew the science of navigation better than all 
the sea captains of the globe." It is true that Colum- 
bus had, some years before, in one of his first voyages, 
complained of the ignorance of his pilots. But Spain 
was not yet a maritime nation. "While the pilots of 
Portugal, joining practical experience to careful prepa- 
ration and training, were the boldest and most skilled 
of the time. The sea captains of the little portion of 
the globe contained within the limits of Portugal com- 
prised De Grama, Cabral, Cortereal, Coelbo, Caminha, 
Magellan. Their voyages had not only rounded the 
Cape of Good Hope and extended to India, but Cabral 
had already discovered and visited the very coast which 
Vespucci was going to explore. Of sea captains from 
other parts of the globe than Portugal, we need only to 
name Columbus, whose superiority as a navigator Ves- 
pucci never questioned outside of this letter. The 
boasting and the depreciation are alike inconsistent with 
all that is known of Vespucci from other sources than 
these letters. 

The letter says he observed about twenty stars, of as 
great luster as we have sometimes seen in Venus and 
Jupiter. " I have by geometric measures taken their 
peripheries and diameters, and I have found them to be 

of greater magnitude." No one can believe that Ves- 
pucci penned that absurdity. 

The letter undertakes to describe the stars, their 
grouping and position, and to give their declination, and 
diagrams are given to aid the description. Yet no man 
has ever been able to identify the stars so described. 
Humboldt with charitable toil essayed the task, and se- 
lected stars which he supposed might possibly be those 
referred to. But when his friend M. Ideler, the as- 
tronomer, at his request made a like attempt, a wholly 
different list of stars was the result. The constellations 
of the southern hemisphere attracted the attention of 
every navigator who crossed the meridian. Dominating 
over all, the splendor of the southern Cross fixed at 
once the attention of all. No difficulty has been found 
in identifying constellations, stars, nebulae, coal bags, 
and Magellanic clouds named by other navigators. But 
no man has been able to comprehend the description of 
this astronomer, who sailed to fifty degrees south, with- 
out observing the Southern Cross. 

The meteorology of the letter is akin to its astronomy. 
It says : " I have seen .things quite at variance with the 
doctrines of philosophers. A white iris was twice seen 
about midnight, not only by me, but also by all the sea- 
men." It is not easy to understand what is meant by a 
white iris, other than the common circle arounu the 
moon. And if, as Humboldt benevolently suggests, a 
lunar rainbow was meant, the announcement is not much 
less puerile. 

A long paragraph is taken up in enforcing the state- 


incut, that as Lisbou is thirty-nine and a half degrees 
north, and the voyage extended to fifty degrees south, 
Vespucci sailed ninety degrees, and, to aid in making 
that statement intelligible, a diagram is added. All 
which is more like the babbling of a child than a serious 
communication from a learned man to one of the fore- 
most citizens of Florence. 

In describing the natives, the letter says : " Human 
flesh is their common food." "A father has been seen 
to eat his sons and wives." ' I also tarried twenty- 
seven days in a certain town, where I saw from house 
to house salted human flesh hanging from the ceiling 
rafters as is the custom with us to hang up bacon and 
hog's flesh." Both Columbus and Hojeda understood 
signs made on one or two occasions of natives to mean 
there was a tribe of cannibals living at a distance whom 
they dreaded. But the cannibals were never found. It 
is very certain that -Vespucci did not see feasts of human 
flesh, nor did he see salted human or other meat hang- 
ing from the rafters of native huts. And Vespucci 
stood in high repute among those who knew him. 

Professor Ringmann, of Strasbourg, coming across a 
copy of this letter, was so fascinated with its extrava- 
gance, " ipsis quidem inlerfectis inimicis cupidissime solet 
vesci" prepared another edition, which was printed by 
Hurjfuff in 1505. But in some introductory verses, he 
gives the prudent caution, 

Candide sincero capias hunc pectore lector 
Et non naso Rhinocerontis. 

The genuineness of this letter as a veritable produc- 


tion of Vespucci has, perhaps, not been questioned. A 
contest has raged upon the different question, whether 
or not Vespucci was a deliberate falsifier. Humboldt, 
whose Examen Critique is as remarkable for its perfect 
judicial temper as for its prodigality of research, sug- 
gests that the letter was seriously mangled in getting 
into print. There is no ground for questioning the 
veracity of Vespucci outside of the printed letters which 
bear his name. If we extract from this letter all the 
passages that are absolutely inconsistent with all that 
we know of. him from other sources, but a slender 
thread will be left. For one, I find it easier to believe 
that " le celebre humanists, epigraphiste, architecte, et matke- 
maticien veronais, Fra Giovanni del Gf-iocondo" while con- 
structing the Pont Notre-Dame and Petit-Pont in Paris, 
whiled away his idle moments in composing this letter, 
a fiction adapted to the public imagination, heated by 
fragmentary accounts of the new lands just found be- 
yond the great ocean, than to believe he was translating 
it from a genuine letter written by Amerigo Vespucci. 

The letter which so fascinated Bingmann in Stras- 
bourg, stated it was an account of the third voyage 
made by Vespucci ; that he had previously made two 
other voyages, and was about to make a fourth, and 
that he proposed to " write a book of geography or 
cosmography, so that my memory may live with pos- 
terity," etc. 

Two years later the famous Cosmographies Introductio, 
being a treatise on cosmography, together with a letter 
of Vespucci, describing his four voyages, appeared. 


published in the neighboring town of St. Die, prepared 
and edited by three of Ringmann's friends. M. d'Ave- 
zac, in his Martin Hylacomjlus Waltzemuller, ses ouvrages 
et ses collaborateurs, has thrown a flood of light upon the 
preparation of this little book. He shows that Waltze- 
muller wrote the preliminary treatise on cosmography ; 
the poet, Jean' Basin, prepared, that is, translated into 
Latin, the letter, and Walter Lud, hereditary secretary 
of the Duke of Lorraine, supplied the means for the 
publication. R-ingmann aided, by giving a copy of the 
verses which he had prefixed to the Strasbourg edition 
of the third voyage and writing others. The pamphlet 
is a unit. The tract on cosmography, filled with allu- 
sions to Amerigo Vespucci in the annexed letter, and 
suggesting that the New World should be named from 
him Amerige or America, is an introduction to the letter. 

All four of the voyages described are to the conti- 
nent of South America. The first is Vespucci's first 
voyage to that continent. The first voyage made to that 
continent was the voyage of Columbus in 1498. The 
second was the voyage of Ojeda in 1499. Vespucci was 
not with Columbus ; he was with Ojeda. These facts are 
established beyond controversy by the testimony of the 
navigators, captains, and pilots, in the suit of the heirs 
of Columbus against the crown. Hence, an account of 
Vespucci's first voyage is an account of Ojeda's voyage 
of 1499. 

Humboldt finds in the narrative in the letter what 
may be called a substantial, though imperfect and con- 
fused and inaccurate account of Ojeda's voyage. The 


year given in the letter is indeed wrong, being 1497 
instead of 1499, but is correct in saying the voyage be- 
gan on the 20th of May, from the port of Cadiz and 
with four vessels, and continued by the Canary Islands 
to the continent. The letter, however, says the conti- 
nent was first touched at sixteen degrees N"., while Ojeda 
first touched at three degrees !N". The voyage was thence 
continued along the coast toward the north-west. The 
inhabitants are described in the letter nearly as in the 
letter to di Medici, and it is said they eat little flesh other 

than human food. The voyage continued along the 

coast till a village was discovered built over the water on 
piles, which they called Little Venice, and had a combat 
with its inhabitants. The voyage proceeded thence 
eighty leagues to a port where the inhabitants were 
hospitable and gracious, and where the voyagers made 
a visit to the interior and were received with distin- 
guished honor. This region, the letter says, is called 
Paria, and lies in twenty degrees 1ST. Thence they pro- 
ceeded along the coast eight hundred and seventy 
leagues farther, and having been absent from Spain thir- 
teen months, rested thirty-seven days in the finest har- 
bor in the world, repairing their vessels. Being much 
besought by the natives, they sailed for the island of Ity, 
inhabited by a hostile and dreaded tribe. This island 
being reached after a sail of seven days by numerous 
other islands, a fierce battle ensued, in which the Span- 
iards lost one killed and twenty-two wounded. They 
sailed thence for Spain with two hundred and twenty- 
two captives, who were sold as slaves upon their arrival 


in Cadiz, Oct. 15, 1499, after an absence of eighteen 

Ojeda, in proceeding along the coast, at first noticed 
the sea was quite fresh from the quantity of water dis- 
charged by two great rivers, and the coast low and 
swampy. The current swept toward the north-west. 
They entered the Gulf of Paria, and at Cape Codera 
made a visit to the interior, where the Spaniards were 
received by the natives with distinguished honor. 
Thence to the port of Chichirirchi, where ensued a fierce 
battle, in which the Spaniards lost one killed and twenty 
wounded. To cure the wounded, Ojeda went to a port 
near Yela de Coro where he rested twenty days. Ac- 
cording to the testimony of the pilot, Andres de Morales, 
Ojeda passed by the Island of Giants (the island of 
Curacoa). Farther on he discovered a village built over 
the water on piles like Venice, the inhabitants of which 
he found more beautiful and gracious than the other 
natives. In three months he had visited six hundred 
leagues of coast, and on the 30th of August sailed for 
Haiti. Passing many islands, he reached Haiti Sep- 
tember 5, 1499, and landed at the harbor of Yaquimo, 
having been absent from Cadiz three months and six- 
teen days. Ojeda had many captives with him on his 
arrival there. He was arrested by Roldayf, and detained 
in Haiti till February, 1500, so that he did not reach 
Cadiz on his return till the middle of June, 1500. 

While there are some striking points of resemblance 
between the account of Vespucci's first voyage and 
Ojeda's voyage of 1499, yet the differences are greater 


and more positive. The letter describes the inhabitants 
of Little Venice as hostile and repelling the approach 
of the Spaniards by stratagem and violence, while Ojeda 
was received with gracious hospitality. The letter de- 
scribes the visit to the island of Ity as made with hostile 
intent, and that island as the scene of the fierce battle. 
Ojeda had his battle on the continent, and found Haiti 
already occupied by a Spanish settlement and govern- 
ment, that had no trouble with the mild and submissive 

The letter speaks of Little Venice as near the begin- 
ning of the coasting voyage, while it was near the ter- 
mination of Ojeda's. The letter describes a voyage 
begun in 1497, reaching the shores of South America at 
sixteen degrees N., proceeding thence to twenty degrees 
N.,and eight hundred and seventy leagues beyond that, 
in thirteen months. Ojeda sailed in 1499, reached the 
shores of South America in thirty degrees N., and spent 
three months on the coast, making in all six hundred 
leagues along the shore. The letter makes Vespucci 
return to Cadiz in October, 1499, while Ojida did not 
return till June, 1500. 

If we accept the suggestion of Humboldt that Ves- 
pucci, with one vessel or more, left Ojeda at Haiti and 
proceeded at once to Cadiz, still the letter can not in 
any real sense be called a narrative of Ojeda's voyage. 
M. de Varnhagen, in his paper read before the Societe 
de Geographic, in Paris, in 1858, rejected the idea that 
the letter is to be regarded as an attempted description 
of Ojeda's voyage, and accepting the dates, latitudes, 


and distances as given in the letter, maintains that Ves- 
pucci made, in 1497, an unrecorded voyage along the 
coast of South, Central, and North America, circling 
the entire Gulf of Mexico, doubling Florida, and ex- 
tending into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is true the 
testimony given in the case of the heirs of Columbus 
against the crown makes it quite impossible that 
any such voyage was ever made. But the paper of M. 
de Varnhagen is interesting as unintentionally showing 
that the account of Vespucci's first voyage, as given in 
the letter, is not a real account of any actual voyage. 
According to the letter, Vespucci started from Cadiz, 
on his second voyage, in May, 14&9, passed by the 
Canary Islands and the Island of Fire, and sailing nine- 
teen days thence across the ocean, reached, in five de- 
grees S., on the 27th June, a new land, which was taken 
to be a continent. The shores were low and marshy, 
and the water of the sea made fresh by the current of 
great rivers. Sailing along the coast, they met a fleet 
of canoes and captured one. Farther on, they were 
delayed seventeen days in the harbor to repair, and 
bought a number of pearls. Later, they reached the Isl- 
and of Giants, inhabited by people of prodigious stature. 
Farther to the north-west, they stopped in a sheltered 
cove forty-seven days to repair their vessels, and here 
purchased one hundred and nineteen marks of pearls. 
Thence he proceeded to the Island of Antiglia, " dis- 
covered a few years before by Christopher Columbus," 
remained there two months and two days refitting, sub- 
jected to continual annoyances by the Christian colo- 


nists, and sailed thence directly for Spain, leaving on the 
22d July, and reaching Cadiz 8th September. 

The actual voyage most resembling this narrative is 
that of Pinzon. He left Palos with four ships in De- 
cember, 1499, passed by the Canary Islands and the 
Island of Fire, and reached the coast of South Amer- 
ica in eight degrees S., on the 20th January, 1500, 
Pinzon landed and took possession with all the cere- 
monies of the day. He noticed new constellations ID 
the sky and the absence of any star marking the south 
pole. The natives were large and warlike, the country 
flat and marshy, and the sea made fresh by the quantity 
of water discharged by large rivers. First advancing 
forty leagues farther south, he turned to the north r 
passed the mouths of the Amazon and the Orinoco, and 
was put into peril by the commotion of the waters. 
Landing, a combat with the natives ensued, in which 
ten Spaniards were wounded. Sailing along the coast 
to Little Venice, he then directed his course to Haiti, 
stopping on the way at Guadalupe and Porto Rico. 
Without delaying at Haiti, he sailed to the Bahama 
Islands, where two of his vessels were wrecked and lost. 
Turning thence for Spain, he arrived at Palos, 30th Sep- 
tember, 1500. This voyage was distinguished for bring- 
ing home topazes, medicinal herbs, and some animals. 

While there are points of resemblance between the 
letter and Pinzon's voyage, it is obvious that the letter 
can not, in any sense, be called a narrative or account 
of that voyage. The discrepancies are so great as to be 
entirely irreconcilable. The extent and direction of the 


voyage along the coast, the delay at Haiti (Antiglia be- 
ing the Portuguese name of Haiti), and the rough treat- 
ment received at the hands of the Christian residents of 
that island, correspond with Ojeda's voyage, and accord- 
ingly M. de Yarnhagen maintains that Vespucci's sec- 
ond voyage was, in fact, the voyage of Ojida of 1499. 

The purchase of the great quantity of pearls along 
the coast, however, belongs neither to the voyage of 
Pinaon nor to Ojeda, but to the wholly different voyage 
of Alonzo Nino, who left Spain in June, 1499, and 
coasted, along the northern shore of South America. 
Nino brought to Spain one hundred and twenty marks 
of pearls, and it was on that account famous as the 
pearl voyage. It was in Nino's voyage that occurred 
the incident of the capture of the Carib canoe^with ban- 
daged Indian prisoners. Nino reported the practice 
among some of the natives of chewing green leaves. 

Contributions from the three voyages of Pinzon, Ojeda, 
and Nino make up nearly the whole of the second voy- 
age of Vespucci, as narrated in the letter to Rene. The 
rest can easily be found in the voyages of Columbus. 

The narrative of Vespucci's third voyage being his 
first voyage in a Portuguese vessel, is shorter and pruned 
of many of the extravagancies which appear in the sep- 
arate narrative of it previously published. But in this 
letter also, it is stated that Vespucci noted the diame- 
ter as well as the declination of many of the more con- 
spicuous stars. The narrative also gives a warm ac- 
count of a pressing letter sent by King Manuel, of Por- 
tugal, to Vespucci, inviting him to Lisbon ; the special 


messenger sent to enforce the invitation ; the enthusi- 
astic welcome given by the king to Vespucci ; and his 
departure in compliance with the entreaties of the king 
upon a fleet dispatched by the king. The investigations 
of-Viscount Santarem show, as far as negative proof can 
show any thing, that no such letter was written to Ves- 
pucci, no such reception was accorded to him, and no 
such fleet was despatched by the king. If Vespucci 
made the voyage, it must have been a private expedition. 
The whole story of the invitation seems merely a sub- 
stitution of the names of Vespucci and King Manuel, 
for Columbus and King John, in the account of a real 
transaction which happened some years earlier. While 
in this narrative there is more reserve in the description 
of the natives, the itinerary is more full. But as there 
is no account of the voyage other than the account 
given by Vespucci, we have nothing to compare his 
statements with. We can, however, observe that the 
letter states the highest southern latitude reached was 
fifty-two degrees S. ; while it also states that a point 
was reached where, on the 7th April, the nights are 
fifteen hours long, or seventy-two and a half degrees S. 
Of the remainder of the narrative, being the account 
of the fourth voyage, it is not necessary to say any thing. 
It is generally admitted that this is intended as an ac- 
count of the voyage of Coelho. Yet, while Coelho, 
having lost four of his ships by wreck, brought himself 
the remaining two back to Lisbon, the letter says that 
Vespucci brought the two saved vessels to Lisbon, while 
the commander was lost with the remainder of the fleet. 



And while nearly one-half of the narrative of this voy- 
age is taken up with an account of the island in mid- 
ocean, two leagues long and one league wide, and the 
disaster on its shore, it has been impossible to identify 
the island so carefully described. The island of Ferdi- 
nand de Noronha, which agrees more nearly with it than 
any other, is at least eight times as long, and, instead of 
being midway between Africa and South America, is, 
relatively, near to the coast of South America. 

\The drift of these remarks, which could be continued 
to greater length and in greater detail, has not been at 
all to argue that Vespucci did not make four voyages, 
but to show that the letter to the Duke of Lorraine 
could not have been written by Vespucci as a narrative 
of his voyages. 

The letter consists of two parts a preliminary epistle 
to Rene, Duke of Lorraine and Bar, and called also 
King of Jerusalem and Sicily, and a narrative of the 
four voyages. The narrative was written as a report to 
King Ferdinand, and a copy or duplicate was sent with 
the preliminary epistle to Rene ; " ad Ferdinandum Cas- 
tiliae Regem Scriptas, ad te quoque mittam." Vespucci 
sailed with Ojeda in 1499, and, accepting the theory of 
Humboldt, it is quite possible that he sailed also with 
Pinzon. But this report to King Ferdinand of two 
voyages made under the flag of Castile, is, clearly, not an 
account of those two voyages ; it is not an account of 
any voyages ever actually made ; it is a patch- work of 
the routes and incidents of various voyages made by 


various navigators, represented as happening at impos- 
sible dates. 

Both the preliminary epistle and the narrative call 
Ferdinand of Arragon, King of Castile, and state that 
the two Spanish voyages were made by direction of Fer- 
dinand. Yet Vespucci well knew that the citizens of 
Arragon were not even allowed to visit the American 
shores, the possessions of Isabella of Castile. 

As Ojeda, in his voyage of 149/, used a chart of the 
coast which Columbus had sent to Spain, and found along 
the coast traces of the visit made by Columbus, Ves- 
pucci would hardly, in his narrative of that voyage to 
the king, have omitted all reference to Columbus and 
written as if he were the first discoverer of that coast. 

In the entire letter the only reference to Columbus is 
the incidental mention that he had lately discovered the 
island of Antiglia. It is not credible that Vespucci, in 
writing to King Ferdinand, would call Haiti by the 
name given to it by the Portuguese. 

In the entire narrative there is no mention whatever 
of the name of the commander of any expedition, cap- 
tain of any vessel, or pilot, or any other person in any 
of the expeditions but of Vespucci ; nor is there even 
any indication of what position he held or in what 
capacity he sailed. Navarrete remarks upon this 
(Tom. 3, p. 290) : "El no haberse expresado el nombre del 
comandante de la escuadra, ni el de otra alguna persona en 
las cuatro relaciones precedentes, puede inducir sospechas de 
su poca veracidad. No parece sino que se quiso huir de que 
hubiese citas que evacuar y modios de comprobar lo cierto." 

While it is true that the entire absence of names and 
other means of identification, the "vague desesperant" 
that Humboldt complains of, may well be pronounced a 
contrivance by the writer of the narrative to prevent 
the detection, or at least the immediate detection, of his 
fiction, yet one can not imagine a more idle and vain 
eifort than such a contrivance in a letter from Vespucci 
to King Ferdinand concerning voyages said to be made 
by Vespucci under the orders of Ferdinand. 

The only way I see out of the difficulties which sur- 
round these letters, is to say they were not written by 
Vespucci. There is some warrant for this conclusion in 
the absolute inattention and indifference to these letters 
among the contemporaries of Vespucci in Spain. If any 
person in Spain supposed that this narrative had been 
written by Vespucci, if any person in Spain supposed that 
Vespucci ever claimed to have visited the coast of South 
America in 1497, there would have been some mention of 
it in the case of the heirs of Columbus against the 
crown, where the government strained every nerve to 
restrict the extent of the actual discoveries made by 
Columbus ; and the friends and partisans of Columbus 
would have shown some resentment against Vespucci. 
But the friends and opponents of Columbus alike ignored, 
as if it did not exist, this narrative that was flooding 
France and Germany ; four editions of which, as M. de 
Varnhagen shows, were printed in St. Die, in 1507. It 
was only later, many years after the death of both Co- 
lumbus and Vespucci, when the abundant translation 
and repetition of the narrative in all the countries of 


Europe outside of Spain and Portugal, had incorporated 
the narrative into the literature and the belief of Eu- 
rope, that the good Las Casas inveighed against the false- 
hood of Vespucci. 

If the letter shows an ignorance, that would be sin- 
gular in a resident of Spain, of the title of King Ferdi- 
nand, it displays an equally singular minute acquaint- 
ance with the title of Rene, Duke of Lorraine and Bar/, 
Rene's grandfather, Rene the first, had borne the empty 
title of King of Jerusalem and Sicily. A careful search 
of the records has not yet discovered that Rene the sec- 
ond ever assumed this title. But if the title had fallen 
into official disuse, the courtiers of the duke would not 
fail to remember it. The family of Lud, that had for 
several generations supplied the place of secretary to 
the dukes of Lorraine, above all, would loyally remember 
the generally forgotten title. Indeed, in 1507, Griinin- 
ger printed in Strasbourg, a little tract, Speculi Orbis 
(Harisse, No. 49), which is inscribed, fnclytissimo Renato 
Hierusalem et Sieiliae Rcgi, etc. Dud Lotfioringie ac Barn., 
G-ualterus Ludd ejusdem a secretis et canonicus Deodaten- 
sis sese humiliter commendat." In the same year, ap- 
peared in the neighboring town of St. Die, the home of 
Walter Lud, the Cosmographiae Introductio, pre- 
pared largely at the expense of Walter Lud, containing 
the narrative of Vespucci's four voyages, with the pre- 
liminary epistle to Rene, with a dedication in these 
words : " Illustrissimo Renato Iherusalem et Sieiliae Regi, 
dud Lothorengiae ac Barn. Americus Vesputius humili- 
mem reverentiam et debitam recommendationem." 


The preliminary epistle to Rene, which addresses him 
throughout as king " inclytissime Rex" reminds him 
of the days when he and Vespucci were schoolmates to- 
gether, under the instruction of Vespucci's uncle, and 
states that the letter is bo rne directly from Vespucci to 
King Rene, hy Vespucci's friend and Rene's servant, 
Benevenutus. As Rene was educated at Joinville, 
France, by his mother Yolande, and did not visit Italy 
till he went there at the age of twenty-nine years to ne- 
gotiate a treaty at Florence, Lud and Waltzemuller 
and Jean Basin, the trio who prepared and edited the 
Cosmographies Introductio, knew that at least that part 
of their work was fiction, and they would hardly dedicate 
a fiction of that character to the duke, their master as 
well as friend, without a full understanding that he 
would accept it good-naturedly as a joke. 

If the trio undertook to write out a fictitious narrative 
of four voyages made by Vespucci, two under Spanish 
auspices and two under Portuguese, such a narrative as 
was, together with a treatise on cosmography, promised 
in the letter previously published, describing the third 
voyage, they would of necessity avoid the use of names 
or other means of identifying the voyages described in 
the narrative with any real voyage. In that case the 
"vague dfaesp&rant" which perplexed Humboldt and 
made Navarrete indignant, is not a dishonest trick of 
Vespucci, but a natural stratagem in a writer of a fiction. 
And hence the verses suggested to Ringmann by the 
extravagancies of the separate narrative of the third 


voyage, were, with a slight verbal change, borrowed 
and prefixed to the letter to King Rene. 

Candida syncero volvas hunc pectore lector 
Et lege non nasum Rhinocerontis habens. 

This hypothesis uow oftered, is not without difficulties, 
but it is easier at all events, to believe that the narrative 
of the four voyages, dedicated to King Rene was not 
written by Vespucci, than to believe that he wrote it. 


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This book is DUE on the last date stamped below 

APR 2 

C 3 1940 
6 ^ 


DEC 2 8 1982' 


Form L-9-35ni-8,'28 

M! 3 1158 0020 

158 00209 6146 

A 000512901 o